Once Homeless and Hopeless
Kelby Thompson, like many Oklahomans in the early 1980’s, jumped with both feet into the industry so often described as “feast or famine” – the oil and gas industry. The Ada native’s college degree couldn’t entice him away from the prospect of what of was promised in the patch.
Fortunately, for many years Thompson’s career in oilfield sales and various other capacities thrived. However, after 16 years, he found himself experiencing famine. The oilfield went bust and he was unemployed. “I lost everything I owned when I lost my job,” Thompson said. “I ended up basically homeless and hopeless.”
Faced with starting over, Thompson decided to begin a new career with the help of Central Technology Center’s Truck Driver Training program. “I chose Central Tech based on the school and the program’s outstanding reputation,” he said. “Being a part of the program only proved what I had heard from others. The training I received was top-notch and very professional.”
Located at the Central Tech campus in Drumright, the Truck Driver Training program has been in operation since 1988. Today, the school has a placement rate of 98.7 percent and a reputation for producing professional, employable trainees. In only 23 days, students receive hands-on training that gives them the opportunity to go directly into the trucking industry.
“Kelby came to school as a student with nothing to lose and everything to gain, and gain he did,” said Central Tech’s Transportation Safety and Education Director, John Thorpe. “He is the kind of person who everyone likes and wants to be around. As a student in our school he gained the respect of our instructors from the very beginning due to his great attitude and willingness to get along with everyone. He also demonstrated a dedicated work ethic which made him and others around him very successful while at Central Tech.”
Thompson completed the program and went straight to work for Aero Trucking out of Tulsa, where he worked for a decade, moving up from driver into operations and sales for the company. From there he was hired to work for one of the nation’s premier Trucking companies, TMC Trucking, where he has worked for the last 14 years.
Headquartered in Des Moines, IA, TMC Trucking is an employee-owned company, hauling freight primarily in the Eastern United States, east of I-35. TMC is the largest privately-held flatbed carrier in the nation.
Now, 24 years after completing Central Tech’s program, Thompson’s role as a recruiter allows him to give back to the school that gave him the opportunity to start a new career. Thompson speculates that he’s recruited between 100 and 200 drivers from Central Tech’s program over the years, and estimates that around 60 or 70 percent of those remain employed with TMC.
“TMC is a great company to work for. Once drivers come to work for us, they don’t usually leave. They treat their employees well, and that’s important.”
Thorpe further praises Thompson for his efforts to continue to be involved with the Central Tech program. “I have worked at Central Tech Truck Driver Training for the last five years in which Kelby has been recruiting at our school. I have met hundreds of recruiters who have come to our school over the past years, and I can say without a doubt that Kelby is one of the finest. He’s able to speak to our student’s and relate to them simply because he’s been in their shoes.”
Today, Thompson reflects on how his life has changed and what an impact his training from Central Tech has made. “Central Tech’s program is professional and regimented. The instructors and people involved with the program genuinely care about the students, their well-being, and helping them find jobs. They want students to succeed. That’s the bottom line for the people involved with Central Tech’s program.”
“I am proud to be a product of the training program and know that it’s a place where I can find quality employees for a company I genuinely love working for.”